meta-scriptKylie Minogue On The Freedom Behind 'Tension,' Being A Gay Icon & "Padam Padam" | GRAMMY.com
Kylie Minogue On 'Tension'
Kylie Minogue

Photo: Erik Melvin

interview

Kylie Minogue On The Freedom Behind 'Tension,' Being A Gay Icon & "Padam Padam"

Kylie Mingoue's new album, 'Tension,' had no theme. Instead, the pop star tells GRAMMY.com, the album offered a space to be free in the music-making process.

GRAMMYs/Sep 21, 2023 - 12:56 pm

Kylie Minogue certainly knows her way around an infectious dance pop bop. Look no further than the wild and campy "Padam Padam" — the lead single to her upbeat new album Tension, which arrives Sept. 22. 

It's the song of the summer that a large segment of Americans didn't even know about. In the U.S., the song reached No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Dance/Electronic chart. In the U.K., it was a No. 1 pop hit that the radio wouldn't play — a move that the song's writers, and Kylie herself, consider to be ageist (and sexist, because they do play David Guetta, who is also 55).

Yet when "Padam Padam" dropped this spring, it was an immediate hit within the LGBTQ+ community. "Padam" became a greeting, a verb, an adjective, and the inspiration for many, many memes.

A select handful of shimmering pop stars from every generation are adopted by the LGBTQ+ community (among them, Grace Jones, Cher and Beyoncé), and Kylie has maintained her status as a pop queen and gay icon for decades. It's something Kylie doesn’t take for granted, and she is deeply appreciative of the loyal support of the gay community.

"It's hugely important to me and so touching," Kylie recently told GRAMMY.com when we asked what their support means to her. "It's very genuine — long-standing mutual respect, support and love."

The second lead single and title track, "Tension," is another sexy dance pop banger, with a joyful piano house tilt. On it, she confidently encourages her lover to make her feel good while simultaneously reminding the world of her popstar status: "I'm a star babe-babe-babe / Do this all day-day-day."

The two lead singles showcase the vibe of the playful, upbeat album. Yet Tension, Kylie explains, had no theme. Instead, the album offered a space to be free in the music-making process with her beloved regular collaborators, Biff Stannard and Duck Blackwell.

Tension follows 2020's DISCO, a glittering pandemic album dedicated to the dancefloor and the genre it’s named after. DISCO: Guest List Edition continued the funky shimmer with remixes with fellow disco-loving pop artists (who she's inspired) Jessie Ware and Dua Lipa, along with disco legend Gloria Gaynor and nu disco champ Purple Disco Machine.

Back in 1988, a 20-year-old Kylie released her eponymous debut album, featuring her debut global hit single "Locomotion." Since making that first big splash, she's remained dedicated to the art of dance pop, dropping an album every couple of years. Her eighth studio album, 2001's Fever, made synthy waves around the globe, and its lead single "Can't Get You Out of My Head" remains her most memorable song. Fever's equally catchy "Love At First Sight" and "Come Into My World" were nominated for Best Dance Recording at the 45th and 46th GRAMMY Awards, respectively.

For those who somehow forgot about Kylie, or only know her as the "Can't Get You Out of My Head" singer, or were born after 2001, it’s the perfect time to allow her nearly endless catalog of dance pop jams to padam into your heart. The sessions that led to Tension began as Kylie's personal sonic escape, and now she's offering those 11 playful tunes for us to move our bodies to and maybe even make our own.

Ahead of the Tension's release, GRAMMY.com caught up with the Australian pop queen about its music and how it came together. Sometimes, when you get a short interview slot with a pop star, they repeat canned answers or avoid offering up too many details. Not Kylie. She gave thorough and thoughtful answers, demonstrating her care and love for the music she makes, her fans, and pop music itself.

Tension is filled with upbeat songs about joy and pleasure. What was your vision for this project and how did the songs make you feel?

Initially, there wasn't a vision. [Chuckles.] I just really wanted to feel. This was early 2021, so, COVID's still present and there were these windows where I can go to my happy place and be in the studio with one of my favorite collaborators. And if nothing came of it professionally, we love each other and we love to make music together. There was a gentle meander into that space. Maybe a couple months after that, I agreed with my label that, "Okay, this is happening, we're gonna make an album."

My previous album [2020's DISCO] was made largely in lockdown. It's like wanting to run out into the field and just going, Yes, I want to start fresh. No more lockdown videos, none of that stuff. I really wanted new material, vibrancy. And we ended up getting it.

There was a point where we were talking about the album thematically having a kind of '80s entrance point, but it just wasn't hitting the mark so we abandoned all that. I think the turning point for the album was the decision that there's no theme — go in, have fun. My A&R said to me, almost as an aside, "Just go in, write songs. Do a Kylie song." We know kind of what that is, but actually doing it's another matter. 

And he said, "As long as it's not boring." That's actually not the worst advice. Yes, you want it to be amazing and moving, or escapism or whatever, but I think we can safely say that we did our best to make sure it's not boring.

It's quite eclectic. I think you can feel that [sense of] feeling liberated with not having a theme and not being afraid to self-reference, either — '80s, '90s, '00s. And I ended up in a good space personally at the end of this album. In a year and a half, a lot happens, so there's moments in the album that attest to that. A strong DNA of my music is, even if it's a challenging subject or emotion, it remains hopeful.

I love that. I was reading that the album was recorded over five days or so in an Airbnb.

Not all of it, but a really important chunk of it. [Biff Stannard has] a perfectly amazing basement studio in which many hits for various artists have been written. It's a pleasure to be there, but we really wanted to have our own writing camp. Because of his phobia of flying, we agreed, "Okay, we can do South of France. You can take the ferry." I can't tell you how many places I looked at online that didn't work. It just got too complicated, so we ended up going about 40 minutes from where he lives.

We achieved what we hoped we would achieve. It was so glorious. Me, Bick, Biff, Duck [Blackwell], Jon Green, and another engineer. We woke up and talked about music. We had breakfast and talked about music. It was just all day, amazing love and creativity. We all had this sensation that it was a special time. "Tension" and "Things We Do For Love" were written on the same day, so we were jumping from different genres, different feelings.

It would be a shame to not talk about "Padam Padam." The gay community went super hard for "Padam" and made it a pride anthem. What does having the support of the queer community and being celebrated as a gay icon mean to you?

It's hugely important to me and so touching. It's a difficult one to unpack — I'm always asked, "How did you become a gay icon?" I don't have the answer. I don't want the answer. It's very genuine — long-standing mutual respect, support and love. 

It came to me many, many years ago. I can only imagine that the community saw something in me that made sense to them. I mean, I've had my own kind of struggles when I was starting out of being accepted in my field, which is very different to one's sexuality. But yeah, they pretty much adopted me. 

I hope that for that community and beyond, I just want to say I am open-minded and I want people to be happy in themselves. That community needed support and still needs support. I'm here. And they padamed for me. 

I had another question about "Padam" — 

My favorite meme. 

Which one? 

I don't know. There's so many. 

When you first heard the demo for "Padam Padam" what did you think? What was your reaction? 

Love. Absolutely loved. I know where I was, where I was sitting, what I was doing. I was getting glammed up for something in Miami. When they're outside songs — separate to songs that I'm involved with writing — it's always an exciting moment. My A&R sends me something and says, "Hey, what do you think of this?" I have no idea what to expect. In that moment, there's before and after, if it's a good moment. 

So already the title was intriguing; I already knew the Édith Piaf song "Padam Padam." Straightaway, I was in. At first, I couldn't understand every lyric, so I listened again and was like that is really, really clever. I called Jamie straightaway, "Yes, yes. I love it. I think it's great on its own, but what's more, I think it’s perfect for me. When can I get my vocals on it?" And the rest, as they say, is history. 

The thing with "Padam" is that it fed itself, it just kind of powered itself. The closest it would remind me of is "Can't Get You Out Of My Head," where it just took off like a rocket. I'm almost like a bystander. "Oh, Padam? Where have you gone?" It's utterly enthralling to watch that unfold in front of my very eyes from day one to day two, and still happening now.

 Did you have any idea that it would be received in the way that it was? 

Who could predict that? Who would even dare to dream of that? I finally get TikTok. Yes, I've been slow but I finally am there. Honestly, it took all of us by surprise. And I think it's telling that now I think opening myself up to that community and having that relationship will be fruitful in the future and I hope to continue having fun with that. But I think in that initial moment, they decided — you know, the grand they. It was really organic. I don't think you can force that. It happened and I loved every second of it.

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Display inside GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up
ATEEZ on display at the GRAMMY Museum

Photo: Rebecca Sapp

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Inside The GRAMMY Museum's ATEEZ & Xikers Pop-Up: 5 Things We Learned

Rookie K-pop group Xikers and label brothers ATEEZ are the subject of the GRAMMY museum’s first-ever K-pop pop-up exhibit. Go inside the exhibit, which runs through June 10, and learn about the clothes, videos and stories behind these K-pop boy groups.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 11:32 pm

K-pop’s reach has expanded exponentially over the past decade, bringing some of Korea’s biggest pop stars to the West for sold-out tours, history-making performances, and a number of cross-cultural collabs.

K-pop touring acts accounted for a record high of 5.1 percent of the 100 highest-grossing tours globally in 2023 according to Billboard. K-pop’s reach has been palpable in regions outside of Asia — like the U.S., Europe and Latin America. According to the same study, BLACKPINK was the No. 1 grossing K-pop group in 2023, with their global tour netting $148.3 million over 29 shows; the group was the 10th most profitable touring act across any genre. 

The GRAMMY Museum is capturing this historic moment in time with a pop-up exhibition focused on two of the fastest-growing groups in the industry. On April 10 through June 10 at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles, "KQ Ent.: ATEEZ & Xikers" is an inclusive environment for anyone — whether you’re a dedicated Xikers fan who knows the dances step-by-step or a casual listener wanting to learn more about K-pop. 

Read more: What's Next For K-Pop? A Roundtable Unpacks The Genre's Past, Present And Future

After passing through displays dedicated to King of Pop Michael Jackson, you’re transported to a new era of pop music through an exploration of both ATEEZ and Xikers’ careers. Right at the entrance is a bright blue wall containing a sweeping look at the history of Korean pop music, written in both English and Korean. The exhibit details terms exclusive to the world of K-pop, including the positions of various members in each group, and what key terms like "bias" and "trainee" mean. 

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ What Is K-Pop Wall

The second part of the exhibit displays outfits both groups have worn, as well as props from their music videos. Other items on display include abstract drawings Xikers’ members did themselves as concept art for their first mini-album HOUSE OF TRICKY: Doorbell Ringing.

The second and third walls of the exhibit focus on breaking down the basics on what to know about ATEEZ and Xikers. Visitors can then head to a wall of music videos from both groups, pop on the attached headphones, and enjoy the exhibit’s displays come to life in a glorious video. 

At the pop-up's opening event, there was palpable excitement from both groups' fan bases — also know as Xikers’ Roadys and ATINYs for fans of ATEEZ. Fans squealed and gasped, taking pictures of each other and the exhibit; some fans even brought photocards of their favorite members (protected in a pink, decorated case, of course) in order to snap a photo of the card next to a member’s outfit on display. 

This exhibit is a love letter to fans, as well as a succinct introduction into the world of the modern K-pop star. Read on for five things we learned from "KQ Entertainment: ATEEZ and Xikers" exhibit.

All photos by Rebecca Sapp.

For Xikers, It's All About Relating To Their Fans 

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ Xikers Outfits

*Xikers' outfits on display*

Xikers already had fans in their pre-debut days, and their journey was on full display at the GRAMMY Museum. Under the temporary moniker KQ Fellaz 2, the group released pre-debut documentary-style videos exploring how the members approached training in Los Angeles. 

The pop-up explains how the 10-member group came up with their name: The "X" was short for x-coordinates, while "IKERS" derives from the word hiker. Together, the name was supposed to represent the group on a journey to find their Roadys (the "Y" representing y-coordinates) as well as their own career trajectory. 

Xikers are fearless stylistic chameleons who pen their own tracks and experiment with genres like hyperpop and rap. With such innovation, it makes sense that they are the only group from K-pop’s fifth generation that has landed two albums on the BIllboard Global 200 chart within the year of their official debut (March 30, 2023). Their latest EP, HOUSE OF TRICKY: Trial And Error, arrived in early March 2024.

The props and outfits acquired from the sets of Xikers' music videos are often an homage to traditional Asian culture and intertwined with the bright, braggadocio of street style — all with a youthful spin. At the exhibit, large bubble guns and neon bandanas from the "We Don’t Stop" music video are a snapshot of these small moments of youthfulness. 

ATEEZ’s Focus On Freedom Has Always Important To Their Art 

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ ATEEZ skateboard

*ATEEZ's prop skateboard*

Throughout the pop-up ATEEZ, are described as having "everything the youth needs." It’s a tall order for any musical artist, but the exhibit solidifies ATEEZ’s growth into that role. 

Their sophisticated debut tracks were self-assured and encouraged fans to embrace the same attitude: "We can do anything, just follow us" they sing on their debut single, "Pirate King." Yet, becoming a symbol of youth meant digging into how powerless the young can find themselves. Reflected in the band's anarchy card props and graffitied skateboards on display,  ATEEZ's music has always included a rebellious streak. 

The group often revisit this theme throughout their career — particularly on 2020’s "Say My Name" and "Pirate King" — except with more of an exploration of figuring out how to liberate oneself from those in power. While some K-pop groups’ concepts and music video can be tedious or confusing, ATEEZ's focus on freedom is effortless.

K-Pop Stage Outfits Are Even More Magnificent IRL 

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ ATEEZ outfit

*An outfit worn by Jongho from ATEEZ*

High-energy choreography has been an essential facet of K-pop, and both ATEEZ and Xikers perform a youthful, powerful choreography (so much so that ATEEZ included a dance practice video for their display). 

Xikers’ emphasis on smooth, synchronized and intense choreography was proudly displayed on their wall of information and in the music video playing throughout their display. The group incorporated their outfits into their choreography, with dynamic zipping motions and confidently stomping out complicated footwork with their platform sneakers. 

Both Groups Performed Sold Out Debut Tours

GRAMMY Museum's New K-Pop Pop-Up _ xikers props

*Xikers props*

Xikers and ATEEZ stay booked and busy. On  both walls listing their accomplishments, there seemed to be an endless array of album titles and projects coming out —  ATEEZ have released nine EPs since their 2018 debut. It only highlighted the immense work ethic it takes to thrive in the industry.

ATEEZ's first tour came only four months after their debut and sold out in mere minutes. Xikers headed on a tour merely six months after their debut, performing in North America, Europe and Japan. Both bands' global popularity speaks to the depth with which K-pop groups (and Xikers and ATEEZ in particular) connect with their fans. On social media, under each tour’s hashtag, fans record their live performances, or write about how much a song meant to them.  

ATEEZ’s upcoming fourth world tour Towards the Light: Will to Power, is on the horizon, and Xikers just wrapped their tour this year in February. It’s clear that touring has become an essential part of their artistry, as well as a crucial way to connect with with listeners in a safe space. In fact, it’s something fans often look forward to — not only being able to relate to their favorite singer but also finding other fans. As this exhibit reveals, despite the glitz and glamor of the industry, at the core of it all is the group’s desire to find connection. You might carry a photocard of them, but they are just a bit like you, too. It makes this unique connection all the better for it. 

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(L-R) Tony Kanal, Gwen Stefani, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont of No Doubt stand holding their GRAMMY Award for  Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal
(L-R) Tony Kanal, Gwen Stefani, Adrian Young and Tom Dumont of No Doubt

Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

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GRAMMY Rewind: Watch No Doubt Accept Their GRAMMY Award For “Underneath It All” In 2004

Ahead of No Doubt’s highly anticipated reunion at Coachella on April 13 and 20, revisit the last time the band was on stage at the GRAMMYs together — the moment they won Best Pop Performance By A Duo/Group at the 46th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 05:49 pm

Right before their hiatus in 2004, No Doubt had one last hurrah with a win for Best Pop Performance By A Pop Duo Or Group With Vocals for "Underneath It All" at the 46th Annual GRAMMY Awards.

In this episode of GRAMMY Rewind, travel back to when they took the stage to accept their award presented by Mathew Perry together.

Drummer Adrian Young began by praising their families, loved ones, and the citizens of Drapers, Jamaica, for "showing us how to have a good time and relax while recording music" Then, bassist Tony Kanal took a turn at the microphone thanking their team, management company, and label, Interscope Records.

Frontwoman Gwen Stefani closed out the speech by acknowledging "Underneath It All" co-writer, David Stewart of Eurythmics; her then-husband, Gavin Rossdale, who inspired the track; and, of course, the fans for "letting us stay alive as a band for all these years."

This Saturday, No Doubt will reunite again (they took a second hiatus in 2015) for a premiere performance on the Coachella stage. 

Press play on the video above to watch No Doubt's complete acceptance speech for their "Underneath It All" win in 2004, and check back to GRAMMY.com for more new episodes of GRAMMY Rewind.

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Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma
(L-R: Eric Bloom and Buck Dharma of Blue Öyster Cult

Photo: Sandra Roeser

interview

On Their New-Ish Album, 'Ghost Stories,' Blue Öyster Cult Defy The Reaper Once Again

Long-running hard rockers Blue Öyster Cult have experienced exhilarating highs and tragic lows. On 'Ghost Stories,' an album of refurbished outtakes of yore, they survey what they've lost and savor their resilience.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 04:15 pm

It's been eons since far-out classics like "E.T.I. (Extra Terrestrial Intelligence)," but Blue Öyster Cult are still enveloped in the sci-fi dream. At 79, singer and multi-instrumentalist Eric Bloom still plays video games every day. "I'm playing 'Diablo Immortal,' 'Nexus War' and 'Return of Shadow,'" he reports over Zoom, at home in Florida, with wall art of Saturnian rings and moons swirling overhead.

Later on, Bloom remembers Allen Lanier, their founding guitarist who passed in 2013, at age 67. "He was probably the brightest guy in Blue Öyster Cult intellect-wise," Bloom says of his late friend. "He always had a book." BÖC's been irresistibly brainy from the jump; they got saddled with the "heavy metal" genre tag, but that never made that style of music, nor fit that macho archetype.

So are the nuances of this cult classic rock band. If you only know the ever-spellbinding "Don't Fear the Reaper" and cowbell jokes — well, you have a lifetime of entertainment ahead of you. Happily, the band is still forging ahead at full capacity. Their last album of new material, 2020's The Symbol Remains, was excellent and one of their most consistent. (And, no, that's not graded on a legacy-act curve.)

Now, they've followed it up with Ghost Stories — an album of songs of yore whose recordings were never finished, until now. "It's for the hardcore BÖC fan," Bloom admits of this collection of tunes, which could have ended up on 1979's Mirrors or 1983's The Revölution by Night if things went in a different direction. (The limit of how much audio could fit on an LP, or cassette, was one factor.) But tracks like "Late Night Street Fight" and "So Supernatural" could make you one.

When you visit BÖC's homepage, you're greeted with an emblazoned "On Tour Forever!" — and not for nothing. In a 100+ show-per-year touring schedule that would flatten many bands half their age, Bloom and brother in arms Donald Roeser — that's Buck Dharma to you and me — carry the flame throughout the small theaters, state fairs and casino resorts of America.

Dharma's the only original member of the band, back when they were Soft White Underbelly — a paraphrasal of a Winston Churchill comment about Italy's role in World War II, by their manager, in-house poet and overall impresario, Sandy Pearlman. On Christmas Day, 1968, Bloom moved into the band house in Great Neck on Long Island, as their tour manager. The next year, he was their vocalist.

In 1971, they became Blue Öyster Cult, named from a Pearlman poem about a conspiracy of aliens taking over the world. (To get a handle on the lore, just read the lyrics to their 1988 album Imaginos, all drawn from Pearlman's bonkers poems and scripts.)  And aside from one brief breakup during a rough '80s, they've been powering ahead ever since.

"We're not dead yet," Bloom deadpans from behind wraparound shades. But they're still telling Ghost Stories.

Eric Bloom

*Eric Bloom performing with Blue Öyster Cult in 1978. Photo: Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images*

The Symbol Remains did so well that their label, Frontiers Music out of Italy, chomped at the bit for more output. However, they couldn't make a new album at that juncture; the road dogs had to be on tour. Eventually, the idea came about to return to unfinished material from 1978 to 1983, de-mix them, remix them and complete them.

As the equally boyish and soft-spoken Dharma explains, the Ghost Stories multitracks weren't recorded in a proper studio, but in a rehearsal hall to eight-track tape. They got the tapes from their original audio engineer, George Geranios, who baked the tapes and, in effect, "pre-produced" the record (Bloom says with air quotes).

Afterward, Geranios sent them to Richie Castellano's studio and still found deterioration on the vocal of the first single, "So Supernatural." BÖC leapt at the opportunity to employ cutting-edge technology to complete the music.

"We deconstructed some of them with these AI software tools to separate the individual elements of the ones that weren't multi-track," Bloom explains. Original BÖC drummer Albert Bouchard, who left the band in 1981, stepped behind the kit to complete the tunes that weren't fully tracked. Albert's brother, their former bassist Joe Bouchard, who left in '86, followed suit.

Regarding "So Supernatural," "Joe Bouchard had to come in, current day, and re-sing it. I believe that's the only song that had a vocal re-sung," Bloom says. Neither he nor Dharma had to re-sing anything; he's not sure that Dharma played anything new, but knows Castellano had to replay elements that were missing. "Some of those older tapes had holes on them where they were abandoned before rhythm guitars were put on them, things like that," he says.

Overall, "It was a nice collaborative effort with the original band members," Dharma says. Naturally, as they flip through these Ghost Stories, both Dharma and Bloom's heads fill with memories of the original sessions. Especially of one very, very critical figure in the band's history.

"Of course, Allen Lanier is gone now," Dharma says. "But to hear him play, it makes me feel good to hear him and hear the band as it was at that time period. It's like a snapshot of what it was."

Dharma can mentally place himself in the room where this music was made. "It was sort of transitional in the band's career because 'Reaper' had been a hit, and once you have a hit, the record company wants you to get another hit," he says. "There's quite a bit of pressure to sustain your level of output and quality. It's a burden."

For a white-hot streak in the '70s and early '80s, Blue Öyster Cult were as big as your ZZ Tops or Cheap Tricks. In the '80s, "The Reaper," "Burnin' For You," "Godzilla," and the like remain staples of classic rock radio.

Still, "It's not like we were hitmakers in terms of writing or performing or posing or whatever you're supposed to do to be a hit recording artist," Dharma says. "We just always thought of ourselves as an album band. And we didn't mind taking the road less traveled as far as styles and going out on limbs and stuff like that."

"I think that's where we did our best stuff, when we just didn't give a thought about commercial success," Dharma concludes. "So, it was an odd time for us, but we persevered. And here we are. It's 2024, for crying out loud."

According to press materials, Ghost Stories "marks a fitting finale to the recording legacy of one of rock's most iconic fixtures from the past 50 years." This notion clearly irks Bloom; he denies it without reservation. "That is record label speech, and my answer to that is never say never," he says. "There's no reason why we couldn't do another project if there was a reason to."

Buck Dharma

*Buck Dharma performing with Blue Öyster Cult in 1978. Photo: Ed Perlstein/Redferns/Getty Images*

Beyond having eternal radio staples, Blue Öyster Cult have sneakily resonated with younger generations. Their catalog is vast, and full of treasures, oddities and are-they-or-aren't-they missteps to argue about; this is a band with a lot to offer to the instant-access Spotify generation.

By the way, Dharma's not buying the "Spotify is evil" line: "People bitch about the streaming and who gets the money and stuff, but actually streaming is more equitable to the artists than it ever was in the physical product days," he contends.

Rather, he puts the onus more on the predatory deals with labels: "The split is better, and the bookkeeping is much better, because every listen is logged and no one's really cheating on that. You may complain about who gets the percentage of what, but if your music is popular, you are making money now."

Everyone knows the Christopher Walken "more cowbell" skit from SNL, but BÖC heads have been found in many a writer's room; they've been referenced, and played, repeatedly on shows that burrowed into millennials' heads young, from "The Simpsons" to "That '70s Show." They've even infiltrated indie, punk and alternative: Bloom being credited as "E. Bloom" led one Dennes Dale Boon from San Pedro, California to become D. Boon.

Neither Dharma or Bloom ever met the Minutemen legend, who was tragically hurled from a van in the Arizona Desert in 1985, marking another member of rock's "27 Club." But their camps are close; Bloom has a fond memory of Mike Watt joining BÖC live to perform the blazing "The Red and the Black" — which, Watt has maintained over the years, was the first song he and Boon ever played together.

"I'm grateful for them giving a damn about Blue Öyster Cult, because I certainly appreciate what they did with it," Dharma says. And, unrelated, Bloom recently caught wind that none other than Dave Grohl's a huge fan.

"Every time our name comes up, it's always something positive," Bloom says. And whether or not Ghost Stories will mark the end of the line, Blue Öyster Cult are not apparitions to be relegated to the past. There've been ups and downs galore with this complicated, idiosyncratic, rewarding band — but as agents of fortune, Lady Luck's been with them indeed.

And to the Reaper — the main character in their greatest song, who will take us and everyone we know eventually — better luck next time.

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GRAMMY U NYC Conference flier

Photo: GRAMMY U

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What To Expect At The 2024 GRAMMY U Conference In NYC

On April 20, music’s next generation will be in New York City for the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference, presented by Amazon Music. Read on for everything you need to know about the day of career-driven discussions with Broadway icons and pop stars.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 03:56 pm

Shaneel Young contributed to this article

It’s been an unparalleled year of programming for GRAMMY U. 

Lainey Wilson and Greta Van Fleet connected with crowds at the 2023 Fall Summit in Nashville; Halle Bailey and Muni Long shared wisdom with the world during GRAMMY Week in Los Angeles at the GRAMMY U Masterclass. Now, music’s next generation of creative professionals will head to New York City for the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference presented by Amazon Music.  

This year it's all about show biz, and music has a hand in every part of the entertainment industry. Featuring a star-studded lineup of guests, the GRAMMY U Conference will dive deep into how your favorite musical performances on television are created, and offer insight into music careers on Broadway. 

GRAMMY U members will be able to learn all about the live performance industry through educational panels, a speed networking session, and even a performance workshop. You won’t want to miss what the big names have to say: GRAMMY, Tony, and Emmy Award winners Ben Platt will be the conference's keynote speaker, and Billy Porter (also a GRAMMY, Emmy, and Tony Award winner)O will work up close and personal with young talent, and Remi Wolf is going to talk about the music of late night shows. 

The action begins Friday, April 19 at the Chelsea Music Hall. Members from all over the country will gather for the GRAMMY U Showcase, where five GRAMMY U contest winners will perform original music. Catch a set by Jawan and stay for Infinity Song’s closing set.

Below, GRAMMY.com has gathered all of the information you need to get excited for the massive event.

GRAMMY U Welcomes Amazon Music

GRAMMY U has officially welcomed Amazon Music as a cornerstone partner. To kick off what will be an instrumental relationship, Amazon Music is proudly bringing their knowledge to the table as a presenter of the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference. Mastercard will also be returning as a participating sponsor for the event. GRAMMY U will kick off the conference with remarks from Ruby Marchand, Chief Awards and Industry Officer, Recording Academy;, Amazon Music's Global Head of Artist & Label Relations Andre Stapleton, and GRAMMY U Sr. Director Jessie Allen.

Hang With Ben Platt, The Star Of The Show

Starting the Saturday strong, Ben Platt will sit down with Beanie Feldstein to talk all about his storied career as an actor and singer ahead of his 18-date run at the Palace Theater in NYC, kicking off May 28th before his album release.

Growing up on the stage, Platt quickly became a leading force on Broadway, and has since shared his talents with the screen, starring in multiple films and TV series. Platt is also releasing music — his third album, Honeymind, drops May 31, beginning with an 18 date residency at the Palace Theatre in NYC followed by his national tour with special guest Brandy Clark this summer — and will discuss the significance of music within his various projects.

As the GRAMMY U Conference keynote speaker, Platt will share insights from the recording studio.

Share The Stage With Billy Porter

During a workshop, Billy Porter will share his best performance practices and advice for GRAMMY U members trying to make it big. Porter is no stranger to putting on a show, with over 30 years in the industry and numerous awards under his belt — and GRAMMY U is eager to learn and take guidance as they begin their music careers. Roy Gantz, GRAMMY U's National Membership Representative, will then take the stage and receive live performance coaching directly from Porter.

Making Music On Late Night TV With Remi Wolf & More

In a discussion moderated by talent booking pro Siobhan Schanda, members of "Late Night with Seth Meyers" will discuss bringing music to late-night television. The discussion will feature "Late Night" Associate Producer Yeji Cha-Beach and Marnie Stern, former guitarist for "Late Night" house band, the 8G Band and recording artist.

Singer/songwriter Remi Wolf, who performed recently on "The Late Show With Stephen Colbert," will also join the discussion. In anticipation of supporting Olivia Rodrigo’s GUTS World Tour and her upcoming sophomore album Big Ideas, Remi will discuss how a special performance like hers comes to life onscreen.

Learn What Happens Behind The Curtains

Have you ever wondered what happens behind the Broadway stage? This dynamic panel will highlight the brilliant minds that work to make the big show happen. Moderated by Michael Kushner, Founder and Creator of Michael Kushner Photography, hear from Broadway producers, directors, record label executives and more on how they put together a Broadway production behind the scenes. 

Panelists include renowned Broadway producer Christen James, Adam Hess of DR Theatrical Management, Pete Ganbarg, the President of A&R at Atlantic Records, and Erich Bergen, producer, actor and director at 6W Entertainment. From set design to marketing, this panel will reveal that whether on stage or behind the scenes, there's a place for every passion in the world of theater. 

Hear How Professionals Produce The Sounds Of Drama

In this panel, Broadway professionals will dive into the inner workings of theatrical sound in live theater, and how their expertise in Broadway audio production translates into other facets of the music industry. 

Experts Tom Winkler, Kurt Deustch, David Lai, and Kathy Sommer will detail the dynamic challenges that producers and composers must navigate to make productions possible. 

Learn How To Build Your Brand In The Career Center

At the start of the conference, attendees can learn from the experts and level up their profiles at the GRAMMY U Career Center. Learn how to present your best professional self, take a professional headshot, get a review of your resume from real recruiters in the industry, and network with professionals from Amazon Music, the Recording Academy and more. Networking mentors include AC Gottlieb, Asmita Khullar, Billy Seidman, Haley Bennett, Jameka Pankey, Jessica Fusco, John Ochoa, Leah Dowdy, Madeline Nelson, Nick Cucci, Nikisha Bailey, and Sarah Crane. So get there early and make the most out of your professional development at the GRAMMY U Conference!

Don’t forget to stop by the GRAMMY U Mixtape Listening station, too, and see the process behind how we select music for the GRAMMY U Mixtape every month.

Reserve Your Seat

Mark your calendars now, the 2024 GRAMMY U Conference will take place in New York City on Friday, April 19, and Saturday, April 20, and with more announcements to come, this is an event you surely won’t want to miss. Reserve your spot now with a RSVP.

For members who aren’t able to attend, the GRAMMY U Conference will be livestreamed on the Recording Academy’s YouTube and Twitch channels at 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

GRAMMY U Reps Experience GRAMMY Week Like Never Before Thanks To The Recording Academy & United Airlines

Backstreet Boys at the 1999 GRAMMYs
Backstreet Boys at the 1999 GRAMMYs.

Photo: Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

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25 Years Of Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way": 10 Covers By Ed Sheeran, Lil Uzi Vert & More

To commemorate the anniversary of Backstreet Boys' biggest hit, take a look at 10 clever ways it's been covered and sampled — from Ed Sheeran's karaoke bit to a Weird Al special.

GRAMMYs/Apr 12, 2024 - 03:38 pm

When the Backstreet Boys released "I Want It That Way" on April 12, 1999, they likely had no idea how beloved their smash hit would still be a quarter-century later.

Written by the Swedish powerhouse team of Andreas Carlsson and Max Martin, "I Want It That Way" is undoubtedly BSB's signature hit, particularly thanks to its memorable undulating melody and its long-debated cryptic meaning. But perhaps the most surprising part of the song's legacy is how it has resonated across genres — from a TikTok cover by Korn to a hip-hop sampling by Lil Uzi Vert.

As the Backstreet Boys celebrate the 25th anniversary of "I Want It That Way," take a look at how the song has been diversely covered, lovingly lampooned and karaoke jammed by an array of voices in the business.

Weird Al Yankovic (2003)

When the king of parody songs selects one to skewer, you know it's an iconic song. Weird Al Yankovic paid tribute to the largeness of the Backstreet Boys classic when he used "I Want It That Way" as the basis of a song called "eBay" in 2003.

Yankovic's chorus replaces the original's with, "A used pink bathrobe/ A rare mint snow globe/ A Smurf TV tray/ I bought on eBay." The Backstreet Boys send up appears on Yankovic's album Poodle Hat, which won Best Comedy Album at the 2004 GRAMMYs.

One Direction (2013)

Three years One Direction formed on "The X Factor," the five lads — Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson — included a cover of "I Want It That Way" on their 2013 concert set lists, the young boy band paying homage to the ones that came before them. Though their English accents poked through at times, their version was loyal to the original, and got their crowds singing along.

"Glee" (2013)

Poking fun at the presumed rivalry between *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys, a medley of the former's "Bye Bye Bye" and "I Want It That Way" was featured in Season 4, Episode 16 of "Glee." In the episode — aptly titled "Feud" — choir director Mr. Schuester (Matthew Morrison) and glee club heartthrob Finn (Cory Monteith) face off in an epic boy band battle, which ultimately proved the groups' respective music was more cohesive than divisive.

Brittany Howard and Jim James (2016)

The lead singers of Alabama Shakes and My Morning Jacket covering a boy band classic. It doesn't sound real, but Brittany Howard and Jim James did just that in 2016 when they recorded "I Want It That Way" for an animated short cartoon called "A Love Story."

Released by the fast food chain Chipotle Mexican Grill, the clip was part of a creative campaign to showcase the company's focus on natural ingredients. Howard and James highlight the poignancy and versatility of the song by adding lush string arrangements and dramatic beats.

Backstreet Boys x Jimmy Fallon and The Roots (2018)

The 2018 live performance of "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys, Jimmy Fallon and The Roots for "The Tonight Show" is arguably the sweetest rendition of the song — and not just because they're using a mini xylophone, baby tambourine and other toy classroom instruments. It's even more endearing than the previous collaborations between Fallon and Backstreet Boys: a barbershop singing version of Sisqo's "Thong Song" and a "Bawkstreet Boys" version of "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)," with everyone dressed like fluffy birds.

The 1975 (2020)

British rockers The 1975 performed a fairly faithful cover of "I Want It That Way," hitting all the high notes at several of their 2023 world concert tour stops. But it's not the first time frontman Matty Healy has hinted at the Backstreet Boys' influence on his band: he told Pitchfork in 2020 that "College Dropout-era Kanye West meets Backstreet Boys" was part of their veritable moodboard at the time when working on their own song called "Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy)."

Lil Uzi Vert (2020)

In 2020, Lil Uzi Vert released a rap song called "That Way" that includes a refrain of "I want it that way" sung to the tune of the Backstreet original, but with an AutoTune twist. From there, the lyrics become quite a bit naughtier than anything the BSB guys have uttered in any song.

"I don't know how [the idea of] Backstreet Boys got involved in this song, I really don't," the song's producer Supah Mario told Splice at the time. "I think it was all Uzi. But it was a game changer."

The interpolation was so good, in fact, that Nick Carter even invited Lil Uzi Vert to collaborate: "Now you're gonna have to be featured on our next album bud," he tweeted upon the song's release.

Korn (2022)

Fans of Korn know that the nu metal band has a sense of humor, but few could've expected that Jonathan Davis and crew would post a TikTok of themselves singing "I Want It That Way" in 2022.

"I never wanna hear you say… 'Worst Is On Its Way,'" reads the caption on the post, a tongue-in-cheek reference to Korn's 2022 song of the same name.

Backstreet Boys responded on the app via a hilarious Duet video with Nick Carter. In the video, Carter — who sports fabulous metal eye makeup and a long silver wig — doesn't actually say or sing anything, he just drops his jaw in amazement.

Backstreet Boys x Downy (2022)

Downy hired the Backstreet Boys to poke fun at "I Want It That Way" with the now-viral "Tell Me Why" commercial in 2022. All five members — Nick Carter, Howie Dorough, Brian Littrell, AJ McLean and Kevin Richardson — appear as a Backstreet Boys poster on the wall that comes to life, using the "tell me why" hook of their hit to engage a woman doing laundry in a conversation about washing her clothes.

As Saatchi group account director Jen Brotman told Muse at the time, the nostalgic ad also spawned some memories for the folks working on the ad campaign.

"The moment [BSB] stood in front of the camera, they rehearsed 'I Want It That Way' just to get the notes right, and we felt like we were getting serenaded on set," Brotman recalled. "We couldn't believe how emotional we all got — there may or may not have been tears in some eyes. The song has always been a karaoke favorite of the team, so we knew which 'tell me whys' we wanted them to hit, and we still can't get it out of our heads."

Ed Sheeran (2023)

When he fancies singing a bit of karaoke, Ed Sheeran loves leaning on "I Want It That Way," as the star showed at his favorite Nashville bar in July 2023. A patron caught him on camera and his happiness level is undeniable when belting out this enduring pop classic.

As Sheeran told CBS News a few months later, he grew up on the pop hits of everyone from Backstreet Boys to Britney Spears. But what he said about "I Want It That Way" specifically may be the best way to describe its long-lasting impact: "You can't be in a bar, a couple of beers in, and 'I Want It That Way' comes on and not be like, 'This is a good song.' You can't."

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